10 Awesome Horror Movie Soundtracks



The girl is defenseless. She wanders terrified through the house, with no idea where the killer is, or when he’ll strike, or for sure that he’s even here. she hears something in the kitchen, and against her better judgment, slowly makes her way there. Steeling her nerves, she steps in hesitantly… and… nothing. No one’s there! She exhales a sigh of relief, turns around — to see the killer right behind her! She screams and runs, the killer in hot, savage pursuit. Cue “Yakkety Sax.”

Wouldn’t work, would it?

Any good horror fan knows that a good horror flick can live or die by its soundtrack. If it’s crappy, the movie can never be ultimately engaging, and if it’s awesome, it can turn even a crappy movie into something engrossing. Here are 10 movies that are by no means crappy, but whose amazing soundtracks and scores put them on a higher level of horror.

10 ) The Omen

First off, the score won an Oscar, which has to be worth something. But setting that aside, just listen to that main theme. Those deep, foreboding voices chanting in Latin just scream Satan, don’t they? It’s not a terribly listenable score outside of the film, but it perfectly sets off the action of the film and that’s what a score is supposed to do. Plus, can you imagine that movie with any other music in it? No, you can’t.

9) The Crow

Granted, this film is barely horror. More like supernatural action with light horror elements, but its soundtrack was easily the best of the ’90s, and the music on it was integrated fantastically well into the film, making it hard to leave it off this list. Nine Inch Nails covering Joy Division? An otherwise unreleased Cure track (maybe the best song they recorded, post-Disintegration)? Jesus & Mary Chain, Pantera, Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult?!? Granted, some of this (okay, a lot of it ) seems a little dated these days, but just wait until that ’90s nostalgia blooms in the next couple of years – this collection will sound positively prophetic.

8) City of the Living Dead

Fabio Frizzi produced a number of great scores for Lucio Fulci’s Italian horror films, including Zombi 2 and The Beyond, but his score for City of the Living Dead takes top honors. As in all of his scores, Frizzi manages to get a whole lot of effect out of not many elements, displaying an almost neo-classical minimalist touch. This score is not only a great listen on its own, it fits the surreal, dark tone of the film perfectly – it’s impossible to imagine the film without it.

7) The Exorcist

The music use in this film is minimal, mostly during scene transitions, but there are some truly great pieces in it. Try listening to “Night of the Electric Insects,” an excerpt from George Crumb’s Black Angels, alone in the dark without getting a little freaked out. And the main theme, Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells,” is an absolute classic tune that’s not only a genuinely excellent piece of music, but one that is both instantly identifiable and irrevocably linked to the film – seriously, more people know it as “that Exorcist song” than by its proper name, despite the fact it wasn’t even written for the movie.

6) Eraserhead

It might be considered a stretch to call this a horror movie, but it’s easily more creepy and disturbing than 95 percent of what’s considered “real” horror. The soundtrack of this is a couple of jazz classics, a bizarre mix of sound effects, tones and white noise, and the haunting original song “In Heaven.” This “score” is inseparable from the sound design of the movie, and the net result is an integral part of the bewildering, disorienting and surreal experience of the movie itself. Also noteworthy is the fact that “In Heaven” has been covered by numerous bands, including Bauhuas, Devo, Tuxedomoon and the Pixies.


5) Dawn of the Dead ’04

Not for the score, which is fine but unremarkable. The soundtrack is what sets this one apart. After Zack Snyder sets the tone for the entire movie with the brilliant, frantic opening sequence, he follows it with a brilliant montage that delivers context and backstory, set to the tones of Johnny Cash’s “When the Man Comes Around.” That alone is almost enough in itself to secure it a spot on this list. But later choices such as Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” “People Who Died” by Jim Carroll and the two versions of “Down with the Sickness,” especially the lounge version, really cement it as a classic. Rock soundtracks are hard to pull off properly in horror, but this one knocked it out of the park.

4) Dawn of the Dead ’78

Goblin did any number of fantastic scores that could make this list. As good as some of those are (Tenebre and Suspiria in particular), the 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead score stands out the most, in part due to being much better known than most of their other work. The pulsing, other-worldly electronic prog of the score is a perfect complement to the action onscreen. To really get the full effect of this killer score, check out Dario Argento’s European cut of the film, which is also shorter, bloodier and quicker paced as a bonus.

3) Jaws

s there any theme in any horror movie that’s more iconic than the accelerating “da-dum, da-dum dum-dum-dum-dum” shark theme from Jaws? If John Williams had never written a piece of music after this, his reputation as one of the great film composers of all time would have been sealed (obviously, he wrote a ton, including several equally as iconic). The only knock on this score is that the rest of it isn’t quite so memorable, but in the face of the impeccable main theme, it hardly matters, does it?

2) Return of the Living Dead

This soundtrack inextricably linked punk rock with horror, especially zombies, and is largely responsible for the enduring popularity of the whole psychobilly movement. Sure, horror rock was around before this, but in 1985, this impossibly hip and edgy soundtrack to what would become a classic movie was destined to spread its influence much further than anything before it. In addition to classic tracks from the Cramps, 45 Grave, the Damned, TSOL and others, it even included a track from Roky Erickson, one of the craziest rockers to ever write songs about monsters and madmen – and a certifiable madman himself, who’s spent a good deal of time in mental institutions over the years. The fact the tune used is “Burn the Flames” and that it accompanies a scene of a character incinerating himself is just gravy. If that isn’t enough, it also has a pretty great main theme.

1) Halloween

John Carpenter has done the scores for a number of his movies, but none are better, more memorable or more integral to the experience of the film than the Halloween score. And it’s almost entirely due to the perfect, brilliant main theme, a favorite of Halloween (the holiday) playlists ever since the day it was released almost thirty years ago. Was there even any other music in this movie? Does it even matter? And don’t complain that it’s become clich? – it became clich? because it’s so perfect.